Dr. Eugene R. Chenette, Ph.D N5YJ  (SK)

Dr. Gene Chenette was instrumental in the design of the Signal One CX7.  He passed away December 7, 2014.  The following obituary was posted to the Signal One reflector by Kip Moravec.  Following the obituary is an email I received from Bob DePierre, K8KI.  What an honour to have know Dr. Chenette so well.

Eugene R. Chenette, Ph.D
1928-07-14 2014-12-07

Dr. Eugene Richard Chenette of Allen, Texas died peacefully early Sunday, December 7, 2014 at the Medical Center of McKinney surrounded by loving family; his wife Helen, his daughter Karen and his "little sister" Mary Dohlman. He is survived by the love of his life, his wife of 63 years, 9 months, and 4 days, Helen Chenette, their daughter Karen Chenette, and four grandchildren, Gavin Wright of Gainesville Florida, Roy Schmidt of Colorado Springs Colorado, Luke and Alexandra Chenette of Plano, Texas, his brother Louis Chenette (Emily) of Indianapolis Indiana, his 'sisters' Mary Dohlman, Nancy Smith (Gary) and their Mom (his aunt Gertrude Ontjes) and a huge list of very loved nephews, nieces, cousins, 2nd cousins, first cousins once removed, etc. He is preceded in death by his daughter Maria Chenette, his sister Louise Bogart (Howard), his mother Freda Chestnut and father Eugene D. Chenette.

He was born in Waverly, Iowa on July 14, 1928 to Eugene Dow Chenette and Freda Ontjes Chenette. He enjoyed his childhood in Charles City, Iowa. He graduated from Nashua, Iowa High School in 1946 and then attended Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa. He taught school in Stillwater, Minnesota where he, after being properly vetted by her uncle Lyman Kleinfelter and her mother Femicha, married Helen Marie Anderson. He entered the US Air Force and was on active duty for four years during the Korean conflict. On leaving the Air Force, he entered the University of Minnesota where he completed Bachelor, Master and Ph.D degrees in electrical engineering. He taught electrical engineering for a time at the University of Minnesota, and was consultant to firms like Bell Labs, (etc.) then joined the Engineering faculty at the University of Florida in Gainesville where he became a Professor then Department Chair of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Assoc. Dean of the College of Engineering. He also spent a couple of years at National Science Foundation.

In 1990, they moved to Niceville Florida / Eglin Air Force Base to teach in the University of Florida graduate engineering programs and where his research with Donald Snyder led to innovations in super high-speed photography and holography. They moved to Plano in 2001 to be closer to their new grandchildren, Luke and Alexandra. His Ph.D. dissertation was on noise in junction transistors, an important contribution to understanding the physics of semiconductors.

He was a pioneer, leader and innovator in the emerging field of transistors, integrated circuits and digital devices. He earned his first "ham" radio license in 1948 and avidly pursued this hobby for more than 65 years, most recently forming the Aspen Ham Shack with his ham friends.

In 1969, he and Dick Ehrhorn became friends and designed, manufactured and marketed the SIGNAL-ONE, a new "state of the art" multi-band transceiver and are considered by many to be the finest American made communications transceiver ever built.

In the past few months he has excitedly mastered his new Flex Radio and related software. He was active in Kiwanis in Gainesville Florida, Niceville, Florida and the Dallas, Texas area. He loved the fellowship and the service and outreach and its mission of improving the world one child and one community at a time. He loved reaching out to young people and helping them learn; often stopping them on the street or while out with his family to dinner and teaching them about proper shoe knots. He was always very active in his church communities, improving them one or sometimes two at a time. In Gainesville he ran the radio broadcast and sound system for the Sunday services, and in Niceville and Plano he and Helen were lay Eucharistic ministers. Sensing a need, they founded Prime Timers at Christ Church Plano.


My thanks to Mr Kipton Moravec for posting the obituary of Dr Gene Chenette to this list. I knew Gene while I was a student at the Univ of Florida, where he was an EE professor for many years.  I was his last graduate student before he retired in 1993.

It became immediately obvious to me that Gene was a giant of a man when it came to radio design. He impressed me so much that I stayed in contact with him over the years. How many of us had teachers that we ever contacted after graduation? Gene was one of those rare ones. I spoke with him several times in December, the last time being the Thursday before his passing.  I received a Christmas card from him the day before I read his obituary.  A few weeks earlier he had entered the CQWW CW contest with his brand new Flex 6300, and was so proud.

Gene gave me his personal CX7 many years ago.  It has been on Fred's registry for a while (#00162). You can see a photo of it in the background on my QRZ.com page (under k8ki).  It works.

I have had many conversations with Gene regarding his work at ECI on the Signal One. I have saved them all, along with all the details. Gene only claimed to have done system-level work on the CX7, a monumental achievement (broadband tuning, dual-VFO sub-receiver, solid state, MOSFETs, 7400 logic chips) considering that the design started in 1968. But Gene was really good at component-level design, and I never understood why he didn't take credit there. Gene also introduced me to Harold Johnson, W4ZCB, a terrific engineer who managed the CX7 production, and later introduced hipersil transformers to Dick Ehrhorn's line of Alpha amplifiers.

The CX7 was far ahead of its time; too far actually. It had the first MOSFETs ever produced, but they failed easily and varied widely in performance. I didn't know 7400 logic chips were available in 1969, until I had to fix the automatic keyer -  but who else had an onboard keyer in 1969? I didn't understand the dual VFOs at first. It hit me when I bought an Orion, which was the very next rig to have two full VFOs and a sub-receiver - 34 years later.  How about the ceramic triode amplifier tube - even today's linear amps don't all have ceramic output tubes. These ideas, and many others, found their way into the CX7 by way of Gene Chenette.

I'll miss Gene, and treasure  CX7/00162.

I might also ask Fred if he might consider sorting the CX7 units in the registry separately from the A and B units. The original CX7 was built by ECI in 1969 and had the fingerprints of Dick Ehrhorn, Gene Chenette, and Harold Johnson on them.  The A and B units were built elsewhere without their involvement.  In my mind, the CX7 was the real jewel.

Bob DePierre, k8ki

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Created: March 24, 2015. Last Updated: March 24, 2015
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